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ENOHE News 2008 / 1

Spain: University Ombudsmen Declaration Signed

During the 10th annual conference of the Spanish network
of university ombudsmen in Madrid in late October 2007
the “La Granja Declaration” (named after La Granja de
San Ildefonso, approx. 60 kilometres to the Northwest of
Madrid) was presented and since then signed by many
Spanish university ombudsmen.
The La Granja Declaration
In Europe, the institution of the University Ombudsman
has its roots in the figure of the Public Ombudsman and,
in our country, in the Defensor del Pueblo [Ombudsman]
and in other similar autonomous regional Institutions established
following the Constitution of 1978. They all share
the principles of independence, confidentiality, transparency
and defence of rights as a guarantee of equality
for all people.
Following the entry into force of the Ley de Reforma Universitaria
[Spanish University Reform Act] in 1983, several
Spanish universities made use of their newfound right to
self-government and established the figure of the Defensor
Universitario (DU) [University Ombudsman]. However,

During the 10th annual conference of the Spanish network of university ombudsmen in Madrid in late October 2007 the “La Granja Declaration” (named after La Granja de San Ildefonso, approx. 60 kilometres to the Northwest of Madrid) was presented and since then signed by many Spanish university ombudsmen.

The La Granja Declaration

In Europe, the institution of the University Ombudsman has its roots in the figure of the Public Ombudsman and, in our country, in the Defensor del Pueblo [Ombudsman] and in other similar autonomous regional Institutions established following the Constitution of 1978. They all share the principles of independence, confidentiality, transparency and defence of rights as a guarantee of equality for all people.

Following the entry into force of the Ley de Reforma Universitaria [Spanish University Reform Act] in 1983, several Spanish universities made use of their newfound right to self-government and established the figure of the Defensor Universitario (DU) [University Ombudsman]. However, it was not until the mid-nineties that this Institution began to extend. In 2001, the Ley Orgánica de Universidades [Spanish Universities Act] made it compulsory to implement the institution of the University Ombudsman in the organisational structure of universities. As a result, this institution is now active in 54 public and private universities throughout Spain. The Reform to the Spanish Universities

Act of April 2007 holds the institution of the University Ombudsman (DU) verbatim.

Furthermore, the institution of the University Ombudsman (DU) exists in some other European countries, working together in a network called European Network of Ombudsmen in Higher Education (ENOHE). The latter organises annual Conferences which facilitate the contact and the exchange of experiences. Within this context, Spain is the country of the European Union with the largest presence and tradition as regards the University Ombudsman, having become an innovative point of reference in this field for the building of the European Higher Education Area(EHEA).

Following the experience provided during the last 20 years, we can safely say that the institution of the University Ombudsman (DU) is now recognised as an element that improves both the culture of responsibility and trust between the members of the university community. It is also admitted that its independent, nonexecutive, position makes the University Ombudsman (DU) a decisive factor in the improvement, not only of the university institution itself, but also of the duality between university independence and fincnaical accountability to society. We must not forget that the raison d´être of Universities is to respond to the needs and requirements of society, and that our society wishes universities to be increasingly open and supportive, real fosterers of values, as well as capable of providing education of the highest excellence which, therefore, will contribute to the creation of knowledge. The following are a few of the most noteworthy aspects of the work undertaken by the University Ombudsmen (DU):

To defend the rights of the members of the university community by trying to harmonise the various and different interests as well as by mediating between the parties.

To encourage and promote a culture of ethics in the academic field.

To promote, and provide an incentive through action to new codes that may improve the scope of university relations and coexistence.

To improve the various regulations that the universities have provided themselves with in the use of their selfgovernment.

To contribute to the improvement of quality in higher education according to the resolutions, reports, monographs and annual records issued by the Ombudsmen, and submitted to the respective university governing bodies.

Considering the experience gained over the years, it seems necessary to us to introduce certain improvements that will increase the effectiveness of the work undertaken by the Ombudsman. In this respect, we consider it to be important to increase the resources available to the University Ombudsman (DU), as well as his/her work to be explicitly recognised at the University. This will doubtlessly enable a better functioning and consolidation for the institution. We should not forget that University Ombudsmen lack executive power and, consequently, rely on the authorities. For this reason, it is advisable to provide this Institution with enough means and resources so that all University Ombudsmen may be able to exercise their functions appropriately and always from an independent standpoint.

In view of the above, the undersigned hereby URGE the Chancellors and persons responsible for the various administrations (with assistance from the Spanish Ministry of Education and respecting the spirit of the recent reform to the Spanish Universities Act, 2007) to proceed with providing the necessary means and resources that may enable a better functioning of the University Ombudsman (DU). If this can be done, the figure of the University Ombudsman (DU) will be definitely strengthened, and, above all, Higher Education as a whole will be provided with an important instrument for the improvement of quality in the educational system.

La Granja de San Ildefonso, October 2007

O mediatorze akademickim w cyberprzestrzeni

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The need for an academic ombudsman

TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION,4 September 1998

John Griffit

The settling of academic disputes by universities alone has always been a difficult process. John Griffith argues the case for an independent watchdog

Academic institutions are notorious for their internal disputes. Sometimes the arguments are about serious matters. It is not universally true, as Henry Kissinger reportedly said, that the reason academics quarrel so bitterly is because so little is at stake. In recent years all sorts of abuses of power have come to light in universities – bullying, corruption, nepotism, cheating, gagging clauses, etc.

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A single public sector ombudsman could spell end for visitor

TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION,18 August 2000

Higher education looks set to be brought under the stewardship of a new public sector ombudsman, spelling the end for the archaic and largely discredited visitor system, writes Phil Baty…Ministers expect to see firm proposals from vice-chancellors before the end of this year. They are willing to provide the legislative support to help set up a higher education ombudsman. The Cabinet Office will be consulting until late September.

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Ombudsman may name and shame

TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION, 30 October 2008

The student complaints body for England and Wales is to examine whether it should follow the example of its Scottish counterpart and publish its adjudications, naming the university involved.

Rob Behrens, who became head of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) in May, said he did not have a strong view on the idea, but it was one of a number of possibilities that would be considered as part of a wide-ranging review of the organisation announced this week..

On whether further education college students should be able to take complaints to the OIA, he said: „We don’t have imperialist ambitions to expand the remit of the office, but if there is an anomaly then we should be looking at it.”

He said he was aware that some complainants and universities thought the OIA took too long to resolve cases. However, he pointed out that some institutions had asked for more time to respond to OIA requests, and that complainants often arrived at the OIA „after a long haul in terms of the university process”, when they were anxious to resolve matters quickly.

The consultation, published at www.oiahe.org.uk, will run until 29 January, and a quantitative study by King’s College London will begin in December.

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The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education

The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education („OIA”) operates an independent student complaints scheme pursuant to the Higher Education Act 2004.

All higher education institutions in England and Wales are required to comply with the Rules of the scheme.

The service is free to students.

The OIA is not a regulator. We handle individual complaints against higher education institutions. We may also publish recommendations about how they deal with complaints and what constitutes good practice.

About Complaining gives a summary of the scheme.

The Office of the Independent Adjudicator is committed to promoting equality of opportunity and good race relations.

All complainants and enquirers will be treated fairly and with respect, and in a positive spirit of support for good relations between all members of the Higher Education sector.

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THE OFFICE OF THE
INDEPENDENT
ADJUDICATOR FOR
HIGHER EDUCATION
resolving student complaints
A Guide to the Student Complaints Scheme
THE OFFICE OF THE INDEPENDENT ADJUDICATOR FOR HIGHER EDUCATION
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The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education in England and Wales E-newsletter
Edition 2, 2009

Welcome to the Spring 2009 edition of the OIA e-newsletter. The first edition received a very positive response from all parts of the HE Sector. Since the last edition, I have visited a number of universities and students’ unions including the University of the Arts, Anglia Ruskin University, York University and Birmingham City University. Issues raised a number of times include consistency in dealing with decisions, maintaining natural justice in the appeals process, record keeping and dealing with disability issues. There were also good exchanges about the importance of universities disseminating annual summary accounts of the outcome of complaints and appeals.

In addition to university visits, I attended the 7th Annual Conference of the European Network for Ombudsmen in Higher Education in Hamburg and presented a paper on the Pathway Project. I called on my counterpart in Scotland, Professor Alice Brown, the out-going Scottish Public Services Ombudsman. And I have recently returned from two sector conferences, the annual meetings of the Committee of University Chairmen (CUC), and the Association of Heads of University Administration (AHUA).  I made presentations at both conferences and listened carefully to a wide range of views in the context of the Pathway Project.

The OIA’s Annual Report for 2008 will be published on May 19 2009. Please check the OIA website after this date for details.

Rob Behrens, Independent Adjudicator and Chief Executive  …

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ENOHE News, 2008 / 1

m.in.

Ombudsman of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)

Higher Education Ombudsman: British Example for Austria?

Spain: University Ombudsmen Declaration Signed

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ENOHE News, 2009 / 1